[Write On Wednesday] Go To Town

I’ve reached the age where people have started to make TV shows about my childhood and teen years (and yes, I know I should be watching Stranger Things; I just haven’t got to it yet…)

It got me thinking about how we capture not just a place but a time as well.

Rob Roy Bar, Govan 1976, I couldn't find copyright info for this picture. If you own it, let me know!

The Prompt

Do an image search for the place you grew up in a year from your childhood. Write a story set in that town/street.

Tips

I didn’t search for the place I grew up but for the part of town my grandparents lived in. (Govan, 1976, when I was really too young to remember it, to ensure it would look as foreign to me as possible).

Part of me thought I might find the exact street I used to walk along with my Gran to get bread rolls for the obligatory after-church bacon rolls. We’d get them from the newsagent’s — the only shop open on a Sunday morning in Glasgow. I didn’t find that street, but I found one nearby, that felt familiar enough.

  • Really look at the picture. What do you remember? What didn’t survive in your memory?
  • Does it look idyllic or more run-down than it is in your memory?
  • What do you see in the picture that a stranger wouldn’t notice? What kinds of stories does it suggest?
  • In my picture I see the Tennant’s Lager sign outside the Rob Roy bar, and the fact that the doorway on the corner is marked ‘public bar’, but I know that what that really means is ‘men only’. (There’s a good chance my own grandfather is in there, now that I think about it, and what a thought that is. My lovely Granda, alive and well, and chewing on his pipe behind the yellow facade in this picture? There’s some emotion I can use in a story!)
  • Look at the shop-fronts, the road signs, the aged cars, whatever is in your picture that speaks of the era.
  • Maybe your picture has a fresh new housing development with saplings in the front yards and a single car in each driveway. What does that neighborhood look like now? What would today’s stranger never know about life on that street when you lived there?
  • Pick a moment and allow two characters to interact. It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering, because the third character in this story is going to be your setting. Do everything you can to capture the sounds, sights, smells and tastes of life in that moment.
  • Did everyone still smoke? Was the air quieter because nobody was running an air-conditioner? Did everyone barbecue on a Saturday afternoon? Were the buses more noxious? Was there more litter? Less? Why do the windows look different?
  • Allow your two characters to interact for a moment, perhaps foreshadow the changes coming to the neighborhood, perhaps grousing about a change that they’ve already seen.
  • Short stories revolve around a single moment. Go to town with that today—literally! Your town. Paint me a picture of a moment in the life of your childhood home.

If you share you story somewhere (and here’s why you might not want to) post a link here so we can come and read it.

Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!

StoryADay September 2018 Week 5

How did it go last week? How many stories did you write? How are you feeling heading into this week? Join the discussion below!

And don’t forget to come back when you’ve finished your last story to CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESS!

Week 5 Prompts

So how did you get on? What did you learn during this challenge? Leave a comment here with your reflections, or share it on social media and leave a link.

In the meantime, I’ll see you in the comments!

Keep writing,

Julie (signed)

 

 

PS Want prompt by email throughout the year? Sign up below for the Write On Wednesday prompts.

StoryADay September 2018 Week 3

How did it go last week? How many stories did you write? How are you feeling heading into this week? Join the discussion below!

If you missed the start of StoryADay September or still need to set your rules, check out Week 1’s post. Don’t try to catch up and write stories for last week, just jump in now and keep moving forward!

Week 3 Prompts

That’s it for this week. I’ll be next week with another batch of prompts.

In the meantime, I’ll see you in the comments!

Keep writing,

Julie (signed)

 

 

PS Want email reminders throughout September? Sign up, below:

StoryADay September 2018 Week 2

How did it go last week? How many stories did you write? How are you feeling heading into Week 2? Join the discussion below!

If you missed the start of StoryADay September or still need to set your rules, check out last week’s post. Don’t try to catch up and write 7 stories for last week, just jump in now and keep moving forward!

Week 2 Prompts

That’s it for this week. I’ll be next week with another batch of prompts.

In the meantime, I’ll see you in the comments!

Keep writing,

Julie (signed)

 

 

PS Want email reminders throughout September? Sign up, below:

Day 14 – M.I.C.E. and Where Stories Start & Stop

Today I want to give you an overview of something that I find useful when figuring out where to start and stop a story and how to keep it on track.

It’s called the MICE Quotient and I learned about it from Mary Robinette Kowal, though it was invented by Orson Scott Card.

The letters stand for:

M – Milieu
I – Intrigue/Idea
C – Character
E – Event

Each letter tells you what type of story you’re telling.

Milieu story

This is largely a story about place. Usually your character arrives in a new place at the start, and most of their struggle is about them neogitating that place, learning about it, trying to escape it. The story ends when they leave that place or they fit it.

EXAMPLES: The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Ever After.

Intrigue/Idea Story

A question is posed at the beginning of the story. The story ends when the mystery is solved or the question is satisfactorily answered.

EXAMPLES: Sherlock Holmes, Arrival/The Story Of Your Life

Character Story

A character starts off with an internal conflict and, by the end of the story they have changed it, or rejected the idea of change, or at least understood where the problem lies.

EXAMPLES: Die Hard (Seriously, John McClane has issues at the start of that movie!), The King’s Speech.

Event Story

External forces change the world at the start and drive the struggle in the middle of the story. At the end of the story the status quo has been restored or a new normal has been established.

EXAMPLES: The Hunger Games, The Parent Trap, disaster movies!

The Prompt

Pick a dominant thread for your story today, based on the MICE categories. Work towards the ending that fits the story type you chose.

I was introduced to this idea by Mary Robinette Kowal, who talks about it on the Writing Excuses podcast. She also made this excellent infographic, to help keep things straight.

Me? I give a workshop about this and how the first three Die Hard movies fit into different categories. Tell your favorite conference organizer to book me now!

Day 13 – Start With A Bang

Today we continue with the third of my ‘fairy story’ structures: Hansel Gretel.

The Prompt

Start with a life-changing moment and lead your characters through the story to show us who they become.

hansel and gretel story structure

 

Hansel and Gretel starts off with a bang: two kids, alone in woods, abandoned!

What are they doing to do?

After the big opening, all their struggles teach us about the kids’ characters. By the time Gretel finally kicks the witch into the oven, grabs her brother and they make their way out of the witch’s cabin, we know enough about these kids to know they’re going to be OK.

How can you replicate this for your characters?

 

This is a big week at StoryADay: we’re creating a lot of skills that will help you build stories throughout the rest of the month and beyond. Stay tuned!

And don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know you’ve written, how it’s going, and what you’re learning.

[Write On Wednesday] All Writing Is Rewriting

Write Me
Sticking with this month’s theme of Getting You Writing and Breaking Blocks, today’s prompt shares another technique for quieting your inner perfectionist: stealing a story from someone else.

Rewriting a classic story, reworking a story of your own, or just stealing the plot of a folk tale, means there’s one less thing to worry about: plot. Writing this way lets you concentrate on other aspects of your writing:

  • Playing with character
  • Concentrating on your voice
  • Messing with Point of View
  • Trying out unconventional/non-narrative forms of storytelling

The Prompt

Rewrite a story (yours or someone else’s)

Tips

  • Remember that if you’re rewriting a story for publication, you’ll need to be careful you’re not infringing anyone’s rights. Best to stick with classic folk tales, for this. Or, if you’re just writing for your own amusement, infringe away 😉
  • Think about rewriting a story from a secondary character’s point of view. Why do the events of the story matter to them? How do they interfere with this character’s life?
  • Remember that stories don’t need to be told in the right order. In a short story, you don’t even need the beginning, middle and end to all happen within the story. One of them can be implied.
  • In short fiction every word counts. Don’t worry about this too much on a first draft, by try to keep it in mind as you choose how you describe events and scenes. For example, instead of ‘he ate two cheeseburgers, hungrily’ try ‘he inhaled the first cheeseburger, put the second away with workmanlike efficiency’. Notice how ‘making every word count’ doesn’t mean writing fewer words. Don’t you feel you know more about how the scene looked, from the second example?
  • If you need a resource for folk tales to steal, try the University of Pittsburgh’s archive.

Five Last Prompts for StoryADay September 2017 – Week 4

Subscribe Now:iTunes | Android | RSS
Past Episodes
Use these prompts any way you wish. Change genders, change tenses, quote them, or not. Or, ignore them altogether and use your own story sparks.

The Prompts

Continue reading “Five Last Prompts for StoryADay September 2017 – Week 4”

Five More Prompts for StoryADay September 2017 – Week 3

Use these prompts any way you wish. Change genders, change tenses, quote them, or not. Or, ignore them altogether and use your own story sparks.

The Prompts

Continue reading “Five More Prompts for StoryADay September 2017 – Week 3”

Five More Prompts For StoryADay September 2017 – Week 2

Use these prompts any way you wish. Change genders, change tenses, quote them, or not. Or, ignore them altogether and use your own story sparks.

The Prompts

Continue reading “Five More Prompts For StoryADay September 2017 – Week 2”